That Emoji Might Not Mean What You Think it Means

posted: 11/16/15
by: Courtney Reimer
Smiling businesswoman using smartphone

Texters everywhere rejoiced recently when a new batch of emojis rolled out: finally, taco lovers have a way to express themselves in graphical form, as do champagne and unicorn lovers. But a lot of the favorites might not mean what you think they do.

Before we get to that, a brief history of emoji. A New York magazine article referred to them as "a small invasive cartoon army of faces and vehicles and flags and food and symbols trying to topple the millennia-long reign of words," but we prefer to think of them as a nice complement to (rather than replacement for) our textual communication. They were invented in the late '90s by a Japanese telecom employee whose objective was to distinguish their pager service from the others. (And, fun fact, a pile of poo is actually considered good luck.)

Here's a brief list of the most misunderstood emojis (clarifications thanks to Emojipedia):

1. Woman with hand raised near ear: Often interpreted as a sassy woman flipping her hair, she's actually a customer-service professional, her hand raised to indicate "How can I help you?"

Recognize this gal? ?......Happy Birthday to Perrine! I loved this cake topper idea she had!

A photo posted by Nutmeg Cake Design (@nutmegcakedesign) on

2. Upright "praying" hands: Most typically used to indicate praying -- or even high-fiving -- but were invented to represent the Japanese gesture for "please" and "thank you."

Praying for paris #emojis #cool#emoji#colour#yellow#blue

A photo posted by One of the best emoji account (@emoji_yings) on

3. Dizzy symbol: Yep, that's what it's officially called. You probably use it as a shooting star or even as a reference to the popular "The More You Know" PSA campaign.

4. Face with tears of joy: We know how it is, your vision deteriorates with age, so it might be tough to tell that's a smile not a frown accompanying those tears.

"Saying Laughing and crying, y'know it's the same release" ~ Joni Mitchell #joni #jonimitchell

A photo posted by David Davis Wilson (@dwilsonart) on

5. Pile of poo: Okay, it's pretty unequivocally a pile of poo, but before this did you know it's actually meant to be a good thing? Now you can impress your friends by telling them that in Japanese culture this pile is a pile of good luck.